Maxfield Parrish

Maxfield Parrish was certainly one of our most prominent illustrators and hardly a home in America existed that didn’t have a Maxfield Parrish print. I’m an illustrator. Maxfield Parrish was a painter-illustrator. He was in the Golden Age of Illustration. When I was in art school I admired him. He was one of my gods.
Norman Rockwell

About Maxfield Parrish

Maxfield Parrish (1870 - 1966) was a prolific American painter and illustrator. His work includes immense murals in office buildings and hotels, magazine covers, and advertisements as well as book illustrations. Parrish continued painting until he was about 90 years old and died at age 96. His career lasted for more than half a century and helped shape the Golden Age of illustration and the future of American art.

As with many artists he struggled to make a living in his early years around the turn of the 20th century. Later his career took off and he lived very comfortably from royalties and from numerous commissions. Parrish was born in Philadelphia but lived virtually his entire life at his Cornish, New Hampshire home and studio called The Oaks. Parrish's art features dazzlingly luminous colors; the color Parrish blue was named in acknowledgement. He achieved the results by means of a technique called glazing where numerous bright layers of oil color alternated with varnish were applied over a base rendering on stretched paper.

Daybreak (see below), his most famous picture, was created for the art print market. It is still popular to this day. The original painting sold for $7.6 million at Christie's in 2006.  In May of 2010 the actor Mel Gibson and his wife sold the print at auction.

There is no way we would attempt to give a fitting tribute to his diverse works on this website. Below, we have illustrated but a few as examples of his most treasured works. For more complete analysis of his works and pictures please see the LINKS section.

Daybreak Picture

Daybreak

Daybreak was Maxfield Parrish's most famous work. The original painting sold for $7.6 million at Christie's in 2006.  In May of 2010 the actor Mel Gibson and his wife sold the print at auction.

In 1922, Maxfield Parrish produced Daybreak which he later referred to as "the great painting." It was laid out according to dynamic symmetry using photographs of Kitty Owen, his daughter, and Jean and Susan Lewin as models, posed amidst a backdrop of architectural elements, columns, urns, and fantastical landscape. The print was the sensation of the 1920's and was displayed in one of every four American homes.


Old King Cole

The King Cole Bar takes its name from the 1906 oil painting in the New York St. Regis Hotel. The painting was commissioned for John Jacob Astor IV as an adornment for the hotel he financed, the Knickerbocker, at the southeast corner of Broadway and 42d Street. Parrish’s Quaker upbringing made him reluctant to paint a mural for a bar but the artist was offered a kingly sum for 1906, $5,000, to complete it. Astor felt that for that amount of money he should be portrayed as the king himself, and Parrish acquiesced. After the Knickerbocker was converted to an office building, the painting was moved to the St. Regis, at 2 East 55th Street, in the mid-1930’s, where it became the centerpiece of the bar.

Pied Piper of Hamelin

On the West Coast no visit to San Francisco would be complete without a stop at the Palace Hotel’s Pied Piper Bar (2 New Montgomery Street). The bar’s backdrop is the Pied Piper of Hamelin mural, painted by Parrish. The mural was commissioned for the Palace's 1909 reopening after fires from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake gutted the building. The bar is just six blocks from the waterfront. Apparently, Mr. Parrish loved San Francisco and created the mural for the bar. The M.H. De Young museum has 5 of his works but these are not always on exhibit so check before making that trip.

Ecstasy

From 1917 to 1934 Parrish did a series of paintings illustrating the history of light for the General Electric company. The company estimated that during this seventeen year period, Parrish helped them deliver over seven BILLION product messages for their company. These paintings were most often incorporated into yearly calendars for local businesses which were given away to their customers.
The Ecstasy painting depicted here and in the background of our webpage is one of the favorites although, to be fair, there are lots of favorites in this series of 17 prints. Ecstasy graced the 1930 Edison Mazda Calendar.